February 29, 2024

Palm Beach Atlantic University Honors Local Philanthropists, Outstanding Female Scholars at 2024 Women of Distinction Luncheon

PBA News

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – (February 22, 2024)Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) recently celebrated its 32nd annual Women of Distinction event at The Breakers Palm Beach, honoring community leaders Denise Hanley and Sheila Rinker for their service and contributions to Palm Beach County. The event was sold out with over 350 guests attending the celebration on Tuesday, February 20, which was chaired by Frances Fisher. This dynamic event took place on the heels of the exciting groundbreaking of the Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Business Hall, as the university continues to grow and expand. PBA welcomed their largest incoming class in the university’s 55-year history.

The 32nd Women of Distinction luncheon continued the rich tradition of honoring visionary women who have made significant contributions to country, education, the arts, health care, and more. Proceeds raise scholarship funds for female students who excel in academics, service, and leadership. Since 1996, a total of 68 female students at PBA have received Women of Distinction Scholarships. This year, the six recipients represented four states and six majors:
Abigail Diaz, a freshman from Lake Worth, Florida studying communication

  • Lydia Ducanis, a junior from Davie, Florida studying finance
  • Margaret Myskowski, a junior from Sullivan, Missouri studying nursing
  • Darah Oniwa, a freshman from Tulsa, Oklahoma studying chemistry
  • Emie Santos,a junior from Bergenfield, New Jersey studying pre-law
  • Niang Thang, a senior from Lake Worth, Florida studying psychology

“Women of Distinction salutes the legacy of incredible women and future leaders who dedicate their energy and resources to others,” said PBA President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn. “As PBA looks ahead to the next chapter in our history, we recognize that our God-Sized Dreams campaign and continuous growth would not be possible without the support of leaders like Denise and Sheila. Their commitment to service has helped create opportunities for future leaders, including our scholarship recipients.”

During the luncheon, guests mingled and enjoyed music from the PBA Concert Choir. The ceremony also included a presentation of the inaugural Women of Distinction Humanitarian Award to Claire and AnnaMae Predtechenskis. The two PBA students became temporary caregivers last year to a nonverbal, autistic 22-year-old Israeli girl whose family was affected by the Middle East Crisis.

“AnnaMae and Claire did not wait for a request for help,” Frances Fisher reflected. “They reached out to see how they could rescue Liel from the horrors of war. Their response of offering refuge highlights service above self, unparalleled empathy and bravery—and most certainly may have saved Liel’s life.”

After the welcome remarks, invocation, and award, Honoree Hanley took to the stage. She thanked friends and family, expressed her admiration for the university, and shared about her family’s longtime involvement in charitable causes throughout Palm Beach County, including their involvement with PBA.

“I am and have been a cheerleader for this ever-blossoming, God-centered university for decades,” Hanley said. “PBA is a living, breathing God-sized dream, and this miraculous university is today, in my opinion, the centerpiece and the jewel of West Palm Beach—welcoming and beckoning students from all over the world to experience and enjoy the best four years of their lives.”

Honoree Rinker also shared about her involvement with PBA. In the 80s, she and her husband took piano lessons while the School of Music was located in the basement of a local church. The Rinkers vowed to help improve the department and were instrumental in building the Vera Lea Rinker Hall in 2002, which houses performing arts classes.

Rinker also highlighted her involvement with the Palm Beach Habilitation Center (now the Arc of Palm Beach County), before sharing a favorite quote.

“If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life,” Rinker said. “I invite everyone here to join John and me—let’s all touch the future together by helping and supporting Palm Beach Atlantic University.”

To date, over $2 million has been granted in scholarships since the inception of Women of Distinction. To learn more about this annual event, visit pba.edu/wod. Launched in November 2022, the God-Sized Dreams campaign at PBA which was referred to by both honorees is dedicated to advancing four transformative projects on the university’s West Palm Beach campus. Alongside the Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Business Hall, the campaign aims to secure funds to develop a cutting-edge health science complex, a state-of-the-art performing arts center, and an alumni and student welcome center.  To contribute to this transformative campaign, visit the campaign website.


About Palm Beach Atlantic University

Palm Beach Atlantic University, founded in 1968, is a private, Christian university, offering 100 different programs and pathways, including undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees and professional degrees. The university has a 19-acre campus in West Palm Beach and an Orlando campus, and the 78-acre Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus provides facilities for training and hosting intercollegiate sports. Sailfish athletes compete in 18 NCAA Division II and Sunshine State Conference varsity sports. PBA affirms the values that have built American society, including religious liberty and the free enterprise system. The university is dedicated to the integration of biblical principles to prepare students for learning, leadership, and service. Learn more at www.pba.edu.

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